As the end of high school approaches, so does the beginning of the rest of your life. Many students feel intense pressure during their junior and senior years of high school to figure everything out and decide their next steps.
Some students decide that taking a gap year is their best course of action. Instead of jumping into a four-year degree or career certificate program, they spend a year traveling, working, or volunteering. A gap year isn’t for everyone. It’s worthwhile to examine the pros and cons before deciding if taking a year off from school is right for you.
What Is a Gap Year?
A gap year is a year away from schooling, typically taken after high school graduation and before starting a post-secondary education program. While a break right after high school is the most common, some students pursue a gap year in the middle of their college career.
Gap years can take many forms, and no two are identical. If you decide to take a gap year, what you do during that year depends on your interests, budget, and goals. Many people spend the year volunteering through programs such as Americorps, the Peace Corps, or with a private organization. Backpacking or exploring the world is another common gap year activity. You may also pursue an internship during your gap year.
Benefits of a Gap Year Before College
Taking a gap year right after high school lets you press pause on life and learn more about yourself. For the right person, a gap year offers several benefits.
You Can Figure Out What You Want to Do
A gap year gives you time to reflect and pursue interests, so you can decide if a field of study or career path is really a good fit for you. A lot of students end up doing this anyway once they enroll in a college program. They end up switching majors after a semester or two. Figuring out what interests you and where you want to head before enrolling in a program saves you money and wasted course credits.
You Can Explore the World
Students often spend their gap years traveling, exploring new countries or parts of the world. Traveling has many benefits, from exposing you to different cultures and languages to helping you better understand the world around you.
Based on your experiences traveling, you may return from your gap year with clarity and a better sense of what you want to do with your life.
You Can Save Up
If you decide to work or pursue a paid internship during your gap year, you can sock away a significant amount of dough before enrolling in a post-secondary education program. Besides earning and saving money, getting work experience before you continue schooling helps you see if a particular career path interests you.
Disadvantages of Taking a Gap Year Before College
There may be better choices than taking a gap year. Before you decide to take a year off, consider the potential drawbacks.
You May Lose Momentum
You’ve been in school for the past 12 years and every year started like the year before. If you take a year off, it’s up to you to get back in gear and enroll in a program once your gap year is up. Some students may lose momentum or aren’t interested in returning to school.
It Can Be Difficult to Transition Back to School
It’s easy to lose study and paper-writing skills when you take time off. After a year of exploration, working, or volunteering, you may have trouble shifting back into classroom mode. At the start of your renewed studies, you may find it difficult to focus in class or that your grades slip.
You May Lose Money
A gap year can be pricey, especially if you spend it traveling. If you decide to spend your gap year exploring the world, create a budget first and remember to factor in potential hidden expenses, such as baggage fees and taxes.
Is Taking a Gap Year Right for You?
Ultimately, a gap year may be just what you need before you start the rest of your life. It can give you time to contemplate your future and plan for career training. It can also help you clarify what’s important to you and how you want to spend your life.
Orange Technical College’s career certificate programs will be here when you return from your gap year. Once you’re ready to press play on your studies again, contact us for more information and learn how to enroll.